by Argentina Munguambe and Jessie Forsyth
As 2023 comes to an end, our project is redoubling efforts to ensure that women and adolescent girls can access abortion care safely.
Mozambique is proud to have safe abortion enshrined in law. Resulting from long advocacy campaigns led by women’s rights groups in Mozambique, the law on safe abortion was passed in 2017 and efforts to raise awareness about its contents have been ongoing since then. Knowing, however, that the law itself cannot end practices, attitudes or beliefs that lead to unsafe abortions and put women’s and girls’ lives at risk, the project has been working hard to develop multisectoral dialogue groups to deepen understanding of how and why accessing safe abortion care is an essential right.
This week, therefore, we are hosting district-level roundtable discussions on the law on safe abortion from December 18 until December 21, 2023. The first two, in Zavala and Homoine districts, boasted between 40-50 participants each. Representatives from the health, education, women and social action, youth and sport, police, and justice sectors engaged in conversation with community members and leaders, civil society organizations, and one another. Women and men from across the participating groups worked together to better understand the challenges facing women and girls, and the different challenges facing health workers and educators, in protecting legal rights to abortion and promoting safe pathways for accessing abortion care.
The District Attorney for Homoine spoke of the urgency of dialogues like these to open up spaces and opportunities for informed debate that helps clarify misunderstandings about the details of the law, dispel misconceptions about what safe abortion entails, and encourage community leaders to seek out legal and social assistance rather than hide cases of clandestine abortion or other unsafe practices.
Community leaders shared stories of adolescent suicide in their communities in response to unwanted pregnancy when the law is not well understood, and where young women are receiving poor advice from peers. They also spoke of unintentional deaths resulting from unsafe abortion practices that are carried out for the same reasons. Together with teachers, community members called for much more community-level education about the specifics of the law in order to protect young women.
All participants have agreed on the need for many more opportunities to learn and share, especially with government representatives present so that officials better understand the problems women and girls face and can better orient their responses. Discussions will continue this week in the last two partner districts, Morrumbene and Vilankulo, after which all five target districts will have taken part in these vital conversations.